Holston Hills to present unique test at 2021 Visit Knoxville Open
May 14, 2020
By Sean Wildhack, PGATOUR.COM
- May 14, 2020
- The Donald Ross-designed Holston Hills CC has hosted several national events, including the TOUR's 1945 Knoxville Invitational won by Byron Nelson. (Courtesy of Holston Hills CC)
The Visit Knoxville Open is one of the four original tournaments still contested on the Korn Ferry Tour since its inaugural season in 1990. Over the last 30 years, the event has produced a number of noteworthy champions, including future PGA TOUR winners Jeff Maggert (1990), J.J. Henry (2000), Vaughn Taylor (2003), Chez Reavie (2007), Chris Kirk (2010) and Patton Kizzire (2015), who used his victory to garner Player of the Year honors that season.
The 31st iteration of the tournament, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was set to be contested at Holston Hills Country Club for the first time in tournament history.
Founded in 1927, Holston Hills Country Club sits on 180 acres of hills adjacent to the Holston River on the northeast side of Knoxville and provides breathtaking views of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Donald Ross-designed course is consistently ranked among the country’s top 100 by Golf Magazine and within the top 100 classical golf courses by Golfweek Magazine.
Holston Hills has hosted several national events in its history, including the Knoxville Invitational on the PGA TOUR, won by Byron Nelson in 1945 during an historic season that included a record-setting 18 victories. Recently, Holston Hills welcomed the 2004 USGA Women's Mid-Amateur Championship and the Tennessee PGA Championship in 2007, 2014 and 2018, and will do again this October.
Knoxville resident Peter Malnati frequents Holston Hills when he’s not competing on the PGA TOUR.
“It’s a great old golf course; it’s amazing,” said Malnati, winner of the 2013 Visit Knoxville Open. “There will be a lot of putts for birdies and eagles but if the greens are the way they can be – firm and fast – it will be a challenge for sure.”The 412-yard, par-4 15th hole at Holston Hills CC. (Courtesy of Holston Hills)
Darron Stiles, who leads the Korn Ferry Tour’s all-time money list, has also had plenty of success in Knoxville throughout his career. Stiles competed in the Visit Knoxville Open 14 times and recorded victories in 2002 and 2012. Throughout his career, he competed several times at Holston Hills in various tournaments as an amateur and professional.
“The last time I played Holston Hills was almost exactly a year ago; they had a U.S. Open qualifier in May of 2019,” Stiles said. “Once I got on-site, I started remembering all of these bits and pieces from when I was in college. It’s very open and the fairways are generous as well, which is typical of a Donald Ross course because it allows you to create those angles into greens.”
Despite its generous landing areas off the tee, the biggest challenge will come on players’ approach shots into the club’s firm and fast greens.
Although the Visit Knoxville Open will not be contested this year, there will be plenty to look forward to when the historic Holston Hills makes it Korn Ferry Tour debut next season.
“There is very little out-of-bounds on the course and there is just room to hit it off the tee,” Stiles added. “So, the power guys will have shorter irons into the greens, but even then, you still have to hit it in the right spots on the greens. That’s the staple of a Ross course, a second-shot golf course. I think it will present a fair challenge for everybody.”The 422-yard, par-4 second hole at Holston Hills CC. (Courtesy of Holston Hills)